Am I doing it wrong?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Individual » Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:02 am

Is it possible to "do Buddhism incorrectly"? Can my attempts at Buddhafying my life fail, even if I am sincere and diligent?

There are so many people that regularly ask about rules and procedure, as if being a Buddhist was like applying for a job, applying to a university, getting a passport, and so on. Although I thought Buddhism is about how to find happiness and live intelligently, people have to ask, "But what's the proper procedure for doing that?"

They want to know... Can they go to other Buddhist traditions for teachings or see other teachers? Can they mix other religions with Buddhism? Can they eat meat? What music should they listen to? What television should they watch? Is it okay to get involved in politics? Can you be a businessman? How should you address monks? What clothes should you wear, like what about lay robes? How often should you meditate and how? Should you have an altar when you meditate? What should be on your altar? If you have an altar, is it okay to make offerings to it? Should you own a mala?

The answer to all of these questions, for the most part, is always the same: You can do whatever you like, although there are obvious consequences to such actions. Rarely do you hear somebody say something like, "No, you CAN'T do that (whatever it is they were asking about). That's BAD. That's UNBUDDHIST."

And what is the reason for this? The reason is because nobody ever asks stupid questions. Nobody asks, "Can I be a murderer and still be Buddhist?" "Can a Buddhist rape people?" "Can I rob people?" "Is it okay for a Buddhist to do drugs?" "Should a Buddhist lie to people?" Because the five precepts are pretty intuitive and straightforward. Is the rest of Buddhism not equally straightforward, and it is simply a matter of intent and proper effort?

Let's say we made Buddhism like Orthodox Judaism or Islam, with several hundred rules to follow, or basically like how monks already have to live. Is this the kind of practice you'd want to engage in and what do you think you would benefit from it?

The point is, it seems like many people do Buddhism to "get their Buddhist groove going on..." Buddha-ism to feel Buddha-ish. But there are no such rules and procedures that make one a good Buddhist or bad Buddhist, and there's no monopoly on truth or happiness.

And so, what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" wear sandals, vote left-wing, and speak like Keanu Reeves or Steven Seagal or Gil Fronsdal or Bhikkhu Bodhi. Buddhists can't wear big boots, hunt deer, vote Republican, or talk loudly and swear; Rush Limbaugh cannot be a Buddhist.

I find it difficult to identify with these people or this behavior, "acting Buddhist", although every day I try very hard to avoid neurotically causing myself further misery for the obvious reason: doing that is painful. This doesn't usually involve daily sitting meditation, but does involve a lot of mindfulness and concentration -- trying to figure out what it is I'm doing wrong, why, how to fix it, and whether I'm consciously suppressing knowledge of such.

Anyway, once, it occurred to me, "Why do I even have to use the same words Buddhists use, like hindrance or fetter? Why don't I use synonyms?"

As I understand it, enlightenment is like the process of examining a building's foundation and fixing it where problems are apparent... not knocking walls down and adding new floors for the sake of re-decorating. What's the point in that?

Am I doing it wrong?
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:05 am

Individual wrote:... what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" ... like Bhikkhu Bodhi

Bhikkhu Bodhi is a fashion Buddhist? I'm always found his talks and books really easy to follow, applicable to my life and inspirational for practice. Does everyone look down their nose at Bhikkhu Bodhi? Why? Does he teach Buddhadhamma or a corruption thereof?

(Just curious)
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:36 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:Bhikkhu Bodhi is a fashion Buddhist?

No, only people who "talk like Bhikkhu Bodhi"... :thinking:

Mike
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Jechbi » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:38 am

Hi Individual,
Individual wrote:Is it possible to "do Buddhism incorrectly"? Can my attempts at Buddhafying my life fail, even if I am sincere and diligent?

...

As I understand it, enlightenment is like the process of examining a building's foundation and fixing it where problems are apparent... not knocking walls down and adding new floors for the sake of re-decorating. What's the point in that?

Am I doing it wrong?

I guess it depends on what you're trying to do. Sincerity and diligence will never be enough to succeed at a task that's impossible. A lot of us ask from life what life can never give us. Even worse, we expect from life, eventually, what life can never give us. Because we figure we're sincere and diligent, and so someday, it will pay off, we'll be "enlightened" or happy or whatever. And at some point, we come face-to-face with the terrifying groundlessness of this existence, the fact that there is no foundation.

From my perspective, I would never regard "enlightenment" as anything like a process of examinging foundations and fixing problems. The foundation is cracked, there's no way to fix it. The entire building is nothing but dust held together for a few moments strung along this blink of an eye we regard as our lifetime. It's going to come crashing down. There's no way around it.

Am I doing it wrong? Yes, of course, we're doing it wrong, because it's not us who's doing it. It's that old habit of wanting something else, something life can never give us.

Angulimala Sutta wrote:Then the thought occurred to Angulimala: "Isn't it amazing! Isn't it astounding! In the past I've chased & seized even a swift-running elephant, a swift-running horse, a swift-running chariot, a swift-running deer. But now, even though I'm running with all my might, I can't catch up with this contemplative walking at normal pace." So he stopped and called out to the Blessed One, "Stop, contemplative! Stop!"

"I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop."
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 7:47 am

mikenz66 wrote:No, only people who "talk likeBhikkhu Bodhi"

Aaaah, I misread it. Sorry. Thanks for clearing that up :)
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Individual » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:39 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:
Individual wrote:... what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" ... like Bhikkhu Bodhi

Bhikkhu Bodhi is a fashion Buddhist?

I don't know. Probably not. That wasn't what I was suggesting.

mikenz66 wrote:
Mawkish1983 wrote:Bhikkhu Bodhi is a fashion Buddhist?

No, only people who "talk like Bhikkhu Bodhi"... :thinking:

Mike

People who would defend his reputation angrily...
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Guy » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:46 am

Hi Individual,

I can't tell you if you are doing it wrong, but there are a few things I thought I would mention...

Individual wrote:
And what is the reason for this? The reason is because nobody ever asks stupid questions. Nobody asks, "Can I be a murderer and still be Buddhist?" "Can a Buddhist rape people?" "Can I rob people?" "Is it okay for a Buddhist to do drugs?" "Should a Buddhist lie to people?" Because the five precepts are pretty intuitive and straightforward. Is the rest of Buddhism not equally straightforward, and it is simply a matter of intent and proper effort?



Actually, I have heard people talk about recreational drugs on Buddhist forums (not this one) and sometimes even combining drug use with meditation. Also, people often bring up the question of whether it's okay to tell "white lies" to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

Individual wrote:
And so, what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" wear sandals, vote left-wing, and speak like Keanu Reeves or Steven Seagal or Gil Fronsdal or Bhikkhu Bodhi. Buddhists can't wear big boots, hunt deer, vote Republican, or talk loudly and swear; Rush Limbaugh cannot be a Buddhist.



I would say that hunting deer would definitely be "unbuddhist" since it's an intentional breaking of the 1st precept. If you consider yourself a Buddhist and you like to engage in such activities, you might want to ask yourself why.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 8:54 am

The thread has turned into a witch hunt. I'm out.
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:31 am

But which witch is which? Bhikkhu Bodhi or the Deer Hunter? :thinking:

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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby acinteyyo » Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:07 am

Hi,

I think Dhamma includes all phenomena. It doesn't matter how someone calls it. Good, bad, buddhist, unbuddhist, doing drugs, keeping precepts, meditate, being a businessman or a bhikkhu what ever.... These things aren't what they appear to be.
Wrong is Dhamma, right is Dhamma. Nature always behaves according Dhamma.
What you tell us, Individual, are simply phenomena which happen every moment. People always think of their lives with ignorance. That's why they can't see how things work. This is simply what leads to dukkha all the time.
What is Dhamma? Ajahn Chah answerd: Nothing isn't

Individual wrote:Am I doing it wrong?

My answer would be another Ajahn Chah qoute:
No one and nothing can free you but your own understanding.

It wouldn't matter if I or someone else would answer with "Yes you're doing it wrong" or "No, you're doing it right", would it?
What I wrote needn't to be right at all. Think about it and you'll know what's "right" on your own.
best wishes ;)
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Both formerly, monks, and now, it is just suffering that I make known and the ending of suffering.
Pathabyā ekarajjena, saggassa gamanena vā sabbalokādhipaccena, sotāpattiphalaṃ varaṃ. (Dhp 178)
Sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven or lordship over all worlds: the fruit of stream-entry excels them.

:anjali:
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby PaulC » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:28 pm

There IS so much in the Western Buddhist world to be irritated by ... If it isn't one weird trip, it's another ... Taken by people who are obviously desperate to convince themselves of stuff they haven't really assimilated, or taken to heart.

But that's only if we let it irritate us, right?

(And deep down pedantry is only ever a sign of deep insecurity ... So maybe the stickler for the procedures might actually be in dire need of our compassion!)

Following on from that apposite quote from Ajahn Chah, one thinks also of the Cunda Sutta:

"Therefore, Ananda, be ye an island unto yourself, a refuge unto yourself, seeking no external refuge; with the Teaching as your island, the Teaching your refuge, seeking no other refuge."
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:37 pm

Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:And so, what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" wear sandals, vote left-wing, and speak like Keanu Reeves or Steven Seagal or Gil Fronsdal or Bhikkhu Bodhi.

If done for fashion, it's just more "becoming".

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby adosa » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:50 pm

IMHO, its about your defilements, nobody else's. It's a path but no one is starting from the same point. It goes on far beyond the five precepts and yet who would benefit more from Buddhism than someone who struggles to maintain even five precepts? Everyone is welcome as everyone is defiled. Keep plugging away. The only way to do it wrong is to give up. To not review one's blemishes.

http://www.yellowrobe.com/pali-canon/su ... ishes.html

adosa
"To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas" - Dhammapada 183
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Individual » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:53 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:And so, what I'd call "fashion Buddhists" wear sandals, vote left-wing, and speak like Keanu Reeves or Steven Seagal or Gil Fronsdal or Bhikkhu Bodhi.

If done for fashion, it's just more "becoming".

Metta,
Retro. :)

You understand my point. It is frustrating to see a process of unbecoming turned into a process of becoming.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:57 pm

Greetings Individual

Individual wrote:You understand my point. It is frustrating to see a process of unbecoming turned into a process of becoming.


The irony is that your frustration constitutes becoming too, and the obvious answer is to let the frustration go (and be thankful you're not a bodhisattva ;) )

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby PaulC » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:07 am

You understand my point. It is frustrating to see a process of unbecoming turned into a process of becoming.


It IS profoundly ironic.

*smiles*
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Individual » Mon Jul 06, 2009 12:16 am

One of my most favorite passages from the Tipitaka.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"I won't hover over you like a potter over damp, unbaked clay goods. Scolding again & again, I will speak. Urging you on again & again, I will speak. Whatever is of essential worth will remain."

The Buddha is saying here: I won't attempt to shape your ego for the sake of mine, but will always give useful advice, as a friend.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby PaulC » Mon Jul 06, 2009 2:23 am

The sutta isn't included in my 3-volume Nyanamoli MN ... So many thanks for drawing my attention to it, Individual.

I wondered about the choice of "scold". Piya Tan translates it as "admonish" which seems a little less harsh (in the context of this discussion, also).

http://earlypalisutta.googlepages.com/1 ... 22piya.pdf
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Guy » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:00 am

adosa wrote:IMHO, its about your defilements, nobody else's. It's a path but no one is starting from the same point. It goes on far beyond the five precepts and yet who would benefit more from Buddhism than someone who struggles to maintain even five precepts? Everyone is welcome as everyone is defiled. Keep plugging away. The only way to do it wrong is to give up. To not review one's blemishes.

http://www.yellowrobe.com/pali-canon/su ... ishes.html

adosa


I agree, well said. :smile:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm
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Re: Am I doing it wrong?

Postby Individual » Mon Jul 06, 2009 3:15 am

Guy wrote:
adosa wrote:IMHO, its about your defilements, nobody else's. It's a path but no one is starting from the same point. It goes on far beyond the five precepts and yet who would benefit more from Buddhism than someone who struggles to maintain even five precepts? Everyone is welcome as everyone is defiled. Keep plugging away. The only way to do it wrong is to give up. To not review one's blemishes.

http://www.yellowrobe.com/pali-canon/su ... ishes.html

adosa


I agree, well said. :smile:

I'd say "problems" instead of "defilements". A defilement is something you step into, like a pile of mud. A problem is a something more abstract you have to deal with.
The best things in life aren't things.

The Diamond Sutra
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